The First European Country to Take the Recreational Leap
by Gabrielle Caravetta
Following a vote in parliament on Tuesday, Malta rings in the New Year as the first European country to allow the limited cultivation and possession of cannabis for personal use.
Malta is located in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African Coast. Malta’s Equality Minister Owen Bonnici encouraged the bill for “harm-reduction” purposes in the country. The law was approved by 36 voters and disapproved by 27. Adults are now allowed to possess up to seven grams of cannabis and grow up to four plants. Smoking marijuana publicly is prohibited and anyone caught consuming cannabis in the presence of children will receive a fine upwards of 500 euros.
Despite receiving fierce criticism from medical associations and the church, the legislation was rushed through parliament, and Bonnici opposed any accusations that accused the law of increasing drug use in the country.
"The government is in no way urging adults to resort to cannabis use or promoting a cannabis culture. The government always urges people to make healthier choices," the minister wrote in the Sunday Times of the Malta newspaper.
The country is also pursuing a position as a European leader in the production of medical cannabis alongside the Netherlands who has developed a very open attitude towards cannabis use for medicinal and recreational purposes.